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Euler"s integral for the beta function $B(s,\alpha) = $ (with $x = 1$)

$$ \frac{(s-1)!(\alpha-1)!}{(s+\alpha-1)!} x^{s+\alpha-1} = \int_0^\infty t^{s-1}\; H(x-t) \; (x-t)^{\alpha-1} dt = \int_0^x t^{s-1} \; (x-t)^{\alpha-1} \; dt $$

is one of those iconic equations at the intersection of several domains of physics and mathematical analysis that serve as leaping boards to far-reaching generalizations (see, e.g., Beta integrals by Warnaar and The importance of the Selberg integral by Forrester and Warnaar).

What salient connections to physics, geometry, and geometric probability theory does the Euler beta integral have?

Some well-known associations

It can be viewed as a Mellin transform or a Laplace transform convolution integral, or morph into the core Riemann-Liouville fractional integroderivative of fractional calculus analytically continued (e.g., by the Hadamard finite part regularization)

$$ D_x^{-s} x^{\alpha}= \int_0^\infty \frac{t^{s-1}}{(s-1)!} \; H(x-t) \; (x-t)^\alpha dt = \int_0^x \frac{t^{s-1}}{(s-1)!} \; (x-t)^\alpha \; dt = \frac{\alpha!}{(\alpha+s)!} x^{s+\alpha} \; . $$

The connection between the Veneziano amplitude of nascent string theory and the beta function is well-known. Kholodenko in New strings for old Veneziano amplitudes: I Analytical treatment and New models for Veneziano amplitudes: Combinatorial, symplectic, and supersymmetric aspects reviews this and links to a geometric interpretation as lengths of sides of a Schwarz triangle and to Ehrhart polynomials encoding a relation between number of interior points of convex lattice polytopes and the number of their boundary points. See also the Physics Overflow question Relation of Betti numbers to Veneziano's scattering amplitude?.

The relation to the Schwarz triangle is nicely presented in Gauss' hypergeometric function by Beukers.

The integral formulated as a Pochhammer contour integral over Riemann surfaces is beautifully depicted in Exploring visualization methods for complex variables.

Dualities

There is a dual operator ($D^{s}x^s$, the inverse of $x^{-s}D^{-s}$) and Mellin transform that illuminates the connection to generalizations of symmetric polynomials (and, therefore, the exterior algebra and simplices) by the Weierstrass factorization theorem for meromorphic functions, in this case the generalized rising and falling factorials:

$$ (x D_x x)^{-s} \; x^\alpha = \int_0^\infty \frac{t^{s-1}}{(s-1)!} \; \frac{x^\alpha}{(1+xt)^{\alpha+1}} \; dt = x^{\alpha-s} \frac{(\alpha-s)!}{\alpha!} = x^{-s} D_x ^{-s} x^{-s} \; x^\alpha \; $$

$$= x^{-s} \frac{(xD_x-s)!}{(xD_x)!} \; x^\alpha \; .$$

These factorials specialize to the gamma function and its reciprocal with $\alpha = 0$ and further, with $x = e^z$, to the e.g.f.s for the gamma characteristic classes or genuses, $\frac{e^{sz}}{s!}$ and $e^{sz}s!$ with the periods $\zeta(n>1)$ as coefficients (power functions) for the dual raising operators of the associated dual Appell polynomials (i.e., the Appell polynomials of the two e.g.f.s form an inverse pair under umbral composition). (Cf. Perturbative corrections to Kahler moduli spaces by Halverson, Jockers, Lapan, and Morrison for an application.) These sequences are naturally connected by the cycle index partition polynomials (CIPP, OEIS-A036039) for the symmetric group (Hall-Macdonald scheme and Newton identities). In fact, the operadic infinitesimal generators for the dual operators are these raising operators which are (with the coefficients treated as indeterminates) generators of the CIPP and its umbral compositional inverse.

There is also a connection to Koszul duality, reflecting that, for $z=0$, the e.g.f.s are a multiplicative inverse pair.

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  • $\begingroup$ Any additional, good references on the associations already mentioned would be appreciated by me and I"m sure by others who might be interested in the topics. $\endgroup$ – Tom Copeland Sep 20 '15 at 0:04
  • $\begingroup$ This is a connection in a different direction, but the corresponding sum over a finite field is called a twisted Kloosterman sum. $\endgroup$ – Allen Knutson Sep 20 '15 at 2:39
  • $\begingroup$ @AllenKnutson, interesting. I wasn't aware of these finite analogs before: Hermite Character Sums by Evans projecteuclid.org/download/pdf_1/euclid.pjm/1102701891 $\endgroup$ – Tom Copeland Sep 20 '15 at 14:17
  • $\begingroup$ I just added the Warnaar and Forrester papers that discuss the finite analogs that Allen noted, as well as other generalizations and history. $\endgroup$ – Tom Copeland Sep 21 '15 at 18:13
  • $\begingroup$ A related MO-Q: mathoverflow.net/questions/153542/… $\endgroup$ – Tom Copeland Sep 22 '15 at 21:48
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The Euler beta function governs the statistics of Preferential attachment processes.

A preferential attachment process is any of a class of processes in which some quantity, typically some form of wealth or credit, is distributed among a number of individuals or objects according to how much they already have, so that those who are already wealthy receive more than those who are not. The distribution is given asymptotically by a ratio of Beta functions. Because the Beta function decays as a powerlaw, the preferential attachment process generates a "long-tailed" distribution. Preferential attachment is used to model the distribution of the sizes of cities, the wealth of the rich, the number of citations to scientific publications, and the number of links to web pages.

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  • $\begingroup$ And so, according to the Wiki, related to probabilistic speciation equivalent to a type of tree growth (?). $\endgroup$ – Tom Copeland Sep 21 '15 at 18:08

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